In this life, you can do and be anything and everything you want to be. Just don’t be scared to become a caterpillar again, even if right now you’re a butterfly 🦋 That’s how we evolve.
Feeling stuck is my biggest trigger for anxiety and depression. Whenever I feel that way, I check in and remember I am allowed to redesign my game plan and change what I want the result of my life to be.
When I was 15, I landed my first job at the Vans store. The application didn’t ask for a birthday, so once I was hired they couldn’t fire me for being under 16 because I had a workers permit from my high school counselor. My boss still made it clear I would have never typically been hired at 15, and I had a lot to prove. Over 3-years, I won several store and company-wide awards and was promoted to manager on my 18th birthday. You could say I was at “The Top.”
When I turned 20, I decided I wanted to enter the fitness industry. Like anything I’ve done, I wasn’t going to give less than 150%. So I started an Instagram, enrolled in school, and took a side hustle writing content for Finish Line with no pay. I knew and trusted I was working for opportunity cost in experience and exposure, which was worthwhile. My first real job in the fitness industry was an internship folding towels at 5 am at the local fitness center. Many mornings I came in after my bartending shift ended at 3 am, just 2 hrs prior (still managing two retail stores during the same time). It was a lot, but I never let show how tired I was. I was lively, spunky, and cheerful, and my attitude was always, “if I’m going to be the towel girl, I’m going to be the BEST towel girl any gym has ever seen.” I used my downtime checking guests in to write my Finish Line articles and plan my social/blog content. Within a year, I was the top trainer at the gym, a signed fitness model for Donna Baldwin, featured in ads on finishline.com and making money from my articles. I also represented the Finish Line & Nike Women’s teams at the San Francisco Half Marathon as the FIRST ever women’s fitness writer for the corporation. Once again, I found myself back at “The Top.”
When I was 22, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to help build an influencer tech startup because of my tenacious energy and (limited) experience in social media and copywriting. Fueled by a perfect combination of fear and drive, I quit my retail, bartending, promo, and gym jobs and moved to LA for three months to run business development, events, and market research for the company. This chapter took a turn at one point when they laid me off because they needed someone with more experience. But I didn’t give up. The owner said I could still attend business meetings to listen and learn if I wanted. You better believe I humbled myself and was at every. Single. Meeting. And he was right; I learned a lot.
By this time, I was making okay money through modeling and Finish Line and started my freelance content, marketing, and branding agency. I got clients through Creative Circle and the network I formed at the startup. Wow, 23 years old, working for myself, running my own business. Is this “The Top”?
Spoiler alert: working for yourself is not at all what it is cracked up to be. I was constantly chasing clients and invoices and working 20+ hrs a day. My diet consisted of Adderal, coffee, and red wine. It wasn’t sustainable. I can promise you, this was NOT “The Top”. Then I fell in lurrrrve with a British boy and ran away to the UK for six months. The romance was short-lived, but the escape gave me a chance to rediscover who I wanted to be. It’s a funny thing going someplace where no one knows you. When they ask you who you are, you have the chance to be anything. I needed that.
Four years ago I knew I had to start back at the bottom if I was ever truly going to make it to “The Top.” So I took an entry-level marketing position in Seattle. I knew the technical skill I developed over the years prior were above entry-level, but I humbled myself and didn’t let ego get the best of me. I figured I just needed to get into a company, and I could prove myself. Quickly I discovered I had a lot to learn in the areas of professionalism and process. After learning and growing from my mentors over the last four years, I’ve technically made it to the “top” again. But what does that mean? What is the “top”?
Truth be told- “The Top” is made up… it’s a superficial place we fantasize about in our heads. It doesn’t exist unless you want it to. You’re there if you’re comfortable where you’re at and what you’ve accomplished. You’ve made it! If that’s you, you can probably stop reading this micro-blog now, and sorry for wasting your time to this point.
If you’re like me and always looking to evolve, The Top doesn’t exist. If you’re like me, the idea of comfortable makes you uncomfortable, too.
Now, as I crawl back into my cocoon, let’s talk about today. Never in my life would I have thought my creativity and drive would present me with the opportunity to design Hospitality concepts. I still l run marketing, but in a way, when it comes to design, I’m back at the bottom. The first two concepts I’ve led the creation of open in a few months, but I still have SO much to learn. I have BIG dreams when it comes to design. The fire is ignited in me again, and I am excited. Currently, I’m enrolled at the New York Institute of Art and Design (on my own behalf) because I want to soak it in and learn, learn, learn! I feel endlessly blessed for opportunities and a BRAIN that will never let me settle.
People ALWAYS ask how I’ve gotten to where I am in my career- the answer is easy but the pathway is not. You have to overcome fear, learn every day, and keep crawling into your own cocoon so you can evolve. Don’t be afraid to go back to the bottom. Overcoming adversity and resilience creates the strength needed to succeed. I’m about to embark on the most challenging phase of my life thus far, but I will take it one page at a time and keep writing this crazy story of my life. Most importantly, I will keep trusting each next chapter… because I know the author.
xx – Shelbs